Chicago Activists Fight For Survival

Led by Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), protesters march for trauma care on Chicago's South side, February 23, 2013. (Photo: sarah-ji/Flickr)

By Maya Dukmasova in Truthout – On the first Wednesday in June, nine Chicago activists were arrested for occupying an administration building at the University of Chicago during an annual alumni reunion. They demanded to meet with Rob Zimmer, the president of the university, to discuss the lack of a Level 1 trauma center on the South Side, as hundreds of big donors were poised to arrive on campus. Two and a half hours later, firefighters cut a hole through the wall and the nine were detained by university police. In the previous month, nine other demonstrators for a South Side trauma center had been arrested during a march on Michigan Avenue. Currently, all four of Chicago’s adult trauma centers are located on the North and West sides of the city, leaving almost a fifth of city residents and large swaths of the South Side without a trauma center within a 5-mile radius.

We Are All Greeks Now

A demonstrator waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity rally in central Athens on Friday. (Petros Karadjias / AP)

By Chris Hedges in Truth Dig – The poor and the working class in the United States know what it is to be Greek. They know underemployment and unemployment. They know life without a pension. They know existence on a few dollars a day. They know gas and electricity being turned off because of unpaid bills. They know the crippling weight of debt. They know being sick and unable to afford medical care. They know the state seizing their meager assets, a process known in the United States as “civil asset forfeiture,” which has permitted American police agencies to confiscate more than $3 billion in cash and property. They know the profound despair and abandonment that come when schools, libraries, neighborhood health clinics, day care services, roads, bridges, public buildings and assistance programs are neglected or closed. They know the financial elites’ hijacking of democratic institutions to impose widespread misery in the name of austerity. They, like the Greeks, know what it is to be abandoned.

Marijuana: Race & Class, Decriminalization Does Not End The Work

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By Chris S Duvall in The Conversation – Massachusetts just opened its first marijuana dispensary, with many applauding the move. And as more and more states decriminalize the drug, polls show that most Americans believe that the costs of marijuana prohibition outweigh its benefits. There are surely social benefits to legalization. For one, fewer marijuana-related arrests should slow spending on the war on drugs, which has been astronomically expensive and unsuccessful. And fewer arrests should benefit minority communities that have experienced racially biased drug-law enforcement. Blacks, for instance, face nearly four times the rate of marijuana arrests as whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use and overall drug use between the two racial groups. However, even after decriminalization in some states, racial disparities in arrest rates have persisted, though the total number of arrests has dropped.

U.S. Must End Predatory Payday Loans, Create “Public Option” Banking

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By Ira B Dember in Occupy – In March, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed rules to crack down on predatory payday lenders. These rules would prevent many payday lending abuses and give consumers a way out of lenders’ debt trap. Under the CFPB’s new rules, borrowers would first have to show they could cover their basic living expenses while repaying loans. Lenders could skip “means testing” and instead limit each person’s total borrowing to $500 – with a single finance charge and no repeated charges. Gone would be auto title loans: if you can’t repay, lenders can’t grab your car. (Workers often lose their jobs when they lose their wheels, a “death spiral” that spreads personal and financial chaos.) A couple of months after the CFPB published its proposed rules, TheHill.com reported financial industry blowback.

World Refugee Day: Human Face Of A Global Crisis

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By TeleSurTV.net. This year, World Refugee Day comes as the number of displaced people around the globe hits records levels of nearly 60 million, the majority of whom are hosted in developing countries. By the end of 2013, developing countries hosted 10.1 million refugees, or 86 percent of the global population of refugees. Countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, and Jordan carry a considerable burden of hosting the world’s displaced, whereas wealthy countries such as U.S., Australia, Canada, and the U.K. are lagging far behind in helping to address the global refugee crisis.

Germans March In Munich Against G7 Talks & Trade Deal

Joerg Koch Getty Images News

By Ashoka Jegroo in Waging Non-Violence – Over 30,000 people crowded onto the streets of Munich, Germany on June 4 to protest the upcoming meeting between leaders of seven of the world’s richest countries. “I’d say I’m here against the inequality that continues to prevail — that we have it so good and others have it so bad,” a protester named Julia told EuroNews. “And because we must not lose hope that one day the world really will be equal, and we will all have the same values.” Protesters also took the chance to address a wide variety of issues. Chief among these issues were poverty, climate change, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a proposed free trade deal between the United States and Europe that has been negotiated mostly in secret. Environmentalist groups, NGOs, opposition parties and anti-globalization activists all marched through Munich’s streets together with “Stop TTIP — Save the Climate — Fight Poverty” as their motto.

As Latin America Moves Left It Successfully Confronts Hunger

Food distribution in a town in the Mexican state of Tabasco through one of the many government programmes created in Latin America in the last 15 years to fight hunger. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud in IPS News – The Latin American and Caribbean region is the first in the world to reach the two global targets for reducing hunger. Nevertheless, more than 34 million people still go hungry. “This is the region that best understood the problem of hunger, and it’s the region that has put the greatest emphasis on policies to assist vulnerable groups. The results achieved have been in accordance with that emphasis,” FAO regional representative Raúl Benítez told IPS. According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) 2015 report, released Wednesday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), hunger affects 5.5 percent of the population of Latin America – or 34.3 million people. That means the region has met the target of halving the proportion of hungry people from 1990 levels, established by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000, with a 2015 deadline.

Report: US Kids Are Poorer Than They Were Decades Ago

Shutterstock / Olesya Feketa

Teachers reported that kindergarten students from affluent households in the 2010-2011 school year were more likely to have positive approaches to learning than those whose families live below the poverty line, according to the center’s annual report, called The Condition of Education 2015. A positive approach to learning includes paying attention in class, keeping belongings organized and enthusiasm for learning. Female students, students who were older at the start of the school year, students who came from two-parent households, and students whose family income was more than twice the poverty threshold were more likely to have positive approaches to learning, according to teachers.

Matt Taibbi: Why Baltimore Blew Up

As a visit to post-uprising Baltimore confirms, high-profile police murders are only part of the problem. Robert Stolarik/NYTimes/Redux  Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-baltimore-blew-up-20150526#ixzz3bLzgZOui  Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

When Baltimore exploded in protests a few weeks ago following the unexplained paddy-wagon death of a young African-American man named Freddie Gray, America responded the way it usually does in a race crisis: It changed the subject. Instead of using the incident to talk about a campaign of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of illegal searches and arrests across decades of discriminatory policing policies, the debate revolved around whether or not the teenagers who set fire to two West Baltimore CVS stores after Gray’s death were “thugs,” or merely wrongheaded criminals. From Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Akai Gurley to Tamir Rice to Walter Scott and now Freddie Gray, there have now been so many police killings of African-American men and boys in the past calendar year or so that it’s been easy for both the media and the political mainstream to sell us on the idea that the killings are the whole story.

Spotlight On Baltimore

Union and community members joined Black Lives Matter actions in Baltimore. The Fair Development Campaign calls for community-led development and good jobs. Photo: Dorret (CC BY 2.0) bit.ly/dorretphoto - See more at: http://labornotes.org/2015/05/spotlight-baltimore#sthash.n4tS3WWA.dpuf

Baltimore erupted after the killing of Freddie Gray. The crisis has laid bare a city strained beyond human capacity by inequality and police violence. Public policies have created islands of wealth and comfort, surrounded by a sea of service cuts, hyper-policing, and degrading poverty in which most of the city is drowning. It’s those policies that gave rise to the police violence that ended Gray’s life—an extreme example of the injustice that people here are facing every day. What’s unusual about this moment is that, through their own extraordinary effort, Baltimore’s poor people are being seen and heard. The same pundits who usually focus on how to bring more wealthy people to Baltimore and push the poor out to the suburbs are now talking about how to grapple with savage poverty, hyper-policing, and state violence. “The murder of Freddie Gray was like a boomerang,” says West Baltimore resident Randolph Ford, “flipping the status quo around to where the unity of the people and the fight for social justice has strengthened.”

The Real Experts In Criminal Justice Reform

The Sentencing Project, 2013

I was first bound by handcuffs in 1995, and though I haven’t known their debilitating grip for years, the hypocrisy and destructiveness of our criminal justice system has remained with me ever since. When exiting the belly of the beast, my vision was crystal clear, even if my path was uncertain. Throughout my adolescence, strife was a familiar companion: poverty, crime, meager public support, and violence predictably culminated in a term of incarceration. After leaving prison, like the other 650,000 people who exit each year, I faced barriers to employment, enfranchisement, education, and equality, both mirroring and intensifying the challenges of my youth. I found opportunity in the advocacy world. There, I was valued for my professional skills, but also for the unique perspective that I brought to the work as someone directly impacted. I began to gain national attention as a staunch advocate for reform.

Don’t Blame The Poor For Their Impoverishment

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It’s not fair to say the poor aren’t holding up their end of the social contract when almost two-thirds of employable poor people work and over 40 percent work full time (and their incomes have become more and more dependent upon wages over time). The truth is that the economy the poor are working in—an economy which has grown more and more unequal over the last several decades—has made it harder and harder for them to get by. Instead of focusing on the characteristics of the poor when assigning blame for poverty, we should examine the policy choices we have made that led to such an unequal economy. Going forward, we should focus on policy solutions that will spur wage growth—such as raising the minimum wage, targeting full employment, strengthening worker’s bargaining power, and updating labor standards—in order to make our economy work for all.

Homeless Jump By 44,000 In LA County In Two Years

JAE C. HONG / AP

he number of homeless people in Los Angeles County jumped 12 percent in the past two years, to more than 44,000, amid a sluggish economic recovery that has left the poorest residents of the second-largest U.S. metropolitan area falling farther behind, a study released on Monday found. Most of those counted weren’t staying in homeless shelters. The study also found that the number of tents, makeshift encampments and vehicles with people living in them jumped by 85 percent, to about 9,500. “California was one of the hardest-hit states in the country during the economic recession, suffering high unemployment and high job losses,” the housing authority said in a news release. “There is a lag in rebound, and the working poor and low-income individuals have been hit particularly hard, with the trifecta of unemployment, stagnant wages and a lack of affordable housing.”

Maya Schenwar: Stop Punishing People For Poverty, Abolish Bail

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How can we reduce the enormous populations of our country’s local jails? Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York unveiled a plan to decrease the population of the Rikers Island jail complex by reducing the backlog of cases in state courts. About 85 percent of those at Rikers haven’t been convicted of any offense; they’re just awaiting trial, sometimes for as long as hundreds of days. Mayor de Blasio’s plan is a positive step. Yet it ignores a deeper question: Why are so many people – particularly poor people of color – in jail awaiting trial in the first place? Usually, it is because they cannot afford bail. According to a 2011 report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, 79 percent of pretrial detainees were sent to Rikers because they couldn’t post bail right away.

Baltimore: ‘We Want Justice, By Any Means Necessary’

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These are important days, not only for Baltimore, but for the entire country. People had to resort to bricks and fire in order to be heard, but finally the authorities (and the world) can no longer ignore the voices of the youth, the mothers, the fathers of Sandtown, who have much to talk about. They talk about the constant abuse of the police force and the everyday racism that consigns black people to a sub-human status. They talk about how the city authorities have completely divested from these neighborhoods, privatizing the little social housing that was left, closing down the recreation centers and cutting down water provisions to those households that cannot afford to pay the bills, while at the same time spending millions of dollars in TIFs and other subsidies to the big downtown developers. They also talk about jobs, or more precisely the lack thereof, and the absence of perspectives for most of the black youth of Baltimore (and so many other cities in the United States). Because racism is the mask exploitation hides under. It constitutes yet another instrument to oppress marginalized communities and undermine social solidarity.